Why did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge go viral?

This post originally appeared on Linkedin.

Did you notice the uncanny urge for people to dump buckets of water over themselves the past few months? From YouTube to Facebook, social media outlets were flooded with videos of Ice Bucket Challenges as individuals challenged others to raise awareness for ALS. Nominees were dared to complete the challenge of donating a small amount to ALS research and getting doused with a bucket of ice water. If one was unable to complete the Challenge within 24 hours, the nominee was supposed to donate to the ALS Association. Once completed, the participants uploaded their video to social media, used the #IceBucketChallenge hashtag, then nominated three more people to engage with the challenge.

The Ice Bucket Challenge wasn’t tied to ALS Association until Chris Kennedy, whose relative suffers from the disease, dedicated the challenge to ALS on July 15. Kennedy used the hashtag #StrikeOutALS, which became a signature of the Ice Bucket Challenge and was initially linked to a number of charities as a fundraising platform. Eventually his video reached the news feed of Pete Frates, former Boston College pitcher, who was diagnosed with ALS in March of 2012. Upon hearing about #StrikeOutALS, Frates uploaded his challenge to social media. Then the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge spread like wildfire.

People all throughout the country brought attention to ALS by taking the challenge. The ever-growing support network blossomed from a small group to thousands of communities across America in just a few months. More than three million people participated in this viral fundraising campaign, which raised over $100 million for the ALS Association.

The exposure that the ALS community has received in the past year is the kind of exposure every organization craves. The domino effect is due in part to the ultra-accessible nature of the campaign, and if it worked for the Ice Bucket Challenge, it can work for your idea, too.

Like the Ice Bucket Challenge, your platform can inspire others to make a change. Here are four guidelines to help your organization reach the masses like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge did:

1. Define your Design:

The Ice Bucket Challenge was much more than people dumping water on each other because of a dare – it was about charity and awareness, and supporting those who needed it in a fun and exciting way. Participants were mandated to ‘donate’ only if they chose not to do the ice bucket challenge, leading to a counterintuitive way to spread the message and mission. Keep your ideas fresh and stimulating while also staying simple. Dumping water on your head is as easy as it gets, but its effects were profound.

2. Evaluate your Resources:

Most Americans have access to water and to social media, which is what made the Ice Bucket Challenge so easy to complete. Despite critics who disregarded the challenge as a waste of time and water, it became a substantial force of positivity for the ALS community. Those who didn’t have the means to donate took part in the effort by completing the challenge and sharing it with their social networks. On Facebook alone, the Ice Bucket Challenge was shared across newsfeeds over 2.4 million times. It linked communities and resources from the East coast to the West, and guess what? It’s possible for your organization to do the same.

3. Leverage your Connections:

For the first time in a long while, ALS caught the limelight thanks to individuals challenging others within their deepest social networks. Many celebrities – from actor Robert Downey Junior to Triple H of WWE – took part in the fun. Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters created a short film by turning his challenge into a prom queen’s nightmare. Bill Gates created an ice bucket contraption, which resembled a miniature version of the giant bucket dumpers in the kid sections of amusement parks. Even Homer Simpson took the Challenge! Using social media as a gateway to the public eye is inexpensive and it gives individuals the capability to connect with future colleagues and collaborators. Use technology to fuel innovation and exposure.

4. Encourage Creativity:

Extremists like Paul Bissonnette, Charlie Sheen, and Muhammad Quereshi amped up the hype for the Ice Bucket Challenge through peculiar innovation. Bissonette, a professional ice hockey player, used actual glacier water for his challenge, which turned out to be the third most-watched Ice Bucket Challenge on YouTube. Charlie Sheen’s challenge featured him ‘saturating’ himself in $10,000 cash, which he donated to ALS. In the name of science, Quereshi, a chemist, used liquid nitrogen for his challenge. These extremists weren’t afraid to break the rules, and neither should you. Make your plan creative enough to capture the public’s attention.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is a prime example of utilizing social networks in order to spread an idea or concept. What started as a simple notion revolutionized the world of ALS as we know it, and in so doing, it shifted the mindset of how organizations will fundraise and spread ideas in the future. All of this because someone decided to dump water on his head in the name of ALS.

Pre-order Erica's forthcoming book: Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence


How to Build Meaningful Connections at Your Next Event

groupsWhile our lives are increasingly interconnected, the time and space for us to cultivate meaningful connections have become limited. You know the feeling of handing out business cards in a crowded convention center, listening to keynote speakers in a cramped room, and never really remembering anyone because you were checking your email half the time. What you crave is to find events where you meet people who can inspire you to grow—people who can catapult your work and push you to question, try, fail, and succeed. Ultimately, what you really want is to develop high quality connections around you. I believe curated events and conferences are a critical part of discovering and fostering those connections.

Although most events are meant to allow people to make meaningful connections, not all of them are created equal in allowing them. For most, hearing panel speakers and being in a crowd of hundreds or thousands doesn’t actually get you where you want to go. However, there are practical ways to ensure that when you attend your next networking event, you get the most value out of it. To make the most of your next event, follow these six tips.

1) Sit at tables with people you don't know: Valuable connections are often made serendipitously, so it is beneficial to sit with diverse groups to have lunch or dinner together during the events. This prevents people from just talking with colleagues you already know and allows you to forge a greater variety of connections.

2) Talk to speakers before they speak: The best time to reach a speaker is before they speak. They are already at the event and interested in learning about the people in the room, rather than running out the door and crowded with people in the room. Show them that you have read up on them. This is a great way to initiate conversations that actually continue afterward and to get remembered.

3) Match-make new people: Event organizers often miss out on how to capitalize on the matchmaking the right people and often prioritize of “the big, powerful speaker.” Take the time to get to know people around you and make connections for others. People want to be around the matchmaker!

4) Sit in the front row of the events: Don’t just stick to the basics of sitting in the back of panels and breakfast speakers. Instead, mix it up and get front and center. This is a powerful way to engage with most of the most powerful attendees and connect with the speakers.

5) Ask questions, then ask more questions: The people remembered at events are not just the speakers, they are the participants who ask provocative questions that focus the conversation on problem solving. Take the approach of brainstorming and solving problems during the event.

6) Share your learnings with the world: Share what you learn in real-time. Use Twitter or Instagram to capture special moments. Use the conference hashtag and ask attendees can respond instantaneously to your ideas while sharing their own. Blog about the event afterwards.

Most importantly, don’t underestimate your own power to maximize serendipity in creating unexpected conversations and high quality connections. When people are brought together, all it may take is bumping into someone new to spark a powerful connection.

How do you create high quality connections at business events?

New Company Launch: Cotential

cotential_full__finalCan you believe February is already almost over? I don’t know about you, but, for me, 2014 is moving fast, and it’s showing no signs of stopping! As you know, I kicked off the new year by launching Cotential, a firm dedicated to unleashing the connected potential of people everywhere to solve pressing challenges.  Getting Cotential up and running this month has proven both nerve-racking and extremely exciting. With the start of any growing company, there is a lot of preparation and work to be done in a short period of time. However, it’s that burst of activity right at the beginning that makes launching a new company so exciting. It has been incredible to watch Cotential grow so quickly in just a few weeks, and I am grateful for all of your support in promoting Cotential’s goal of creating a more informed and inspired world through a more connected world.
As I have realized recently, it really is my network of connections and resources that have made the launch of Cotential possible. Just as I hope to show people through my company, Cotential, it is possible for you too to use your networks in our increasingly connected world to make your goals happen—whether it’s starting your own company like I did, driving the growth of your business, or jumpstarting innovation within your organization.  To learn more about how you can use your innate connected potential—your cotential—to achieve breakthroughs, check out this guide on Unleashing Cotential.
As 2014 races forward, cheers to a year full of opportunity, success, and unlocked human cotential. I spent last week leading a keynote panel on The Value of Networks at Social Media Week with leading executives from Bloomberg and CNN and am off to California and South by Southwest next week. 

The year is in full steam! 


Stop Working: Build Your Life’s Work in 2014

Red2000 | Dreamstime Stock Photos | Stock Free ImagesThis is a season for 'productivity' tips and resolution mania. But this year, I'm uninterested in focusing on "planning my work and life" and instead focused on building my life's work. Instead of organizing my life around my work, I'm more interested in organizing my work around my intention in my life. When we reframe productivity or daily tasks as doing the work that matters, it's not about tasks or technologies, it is about having a passion for the challenge we choose to face. So this new year, instead of searching for the next health or work tip, figure out what in your story, in your values calls you to act and makes you want to create something that matters, and you'll reach farther than you'll ever expect. 

This statement, from the inspiring Dr. King, exemplifies the essence of building a life's work:

"Whatever your life's work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better." – Martin Luther King, Jr.

What is your life's work in 2014?

Happy New Year!

Webinar- The Advent of Sparring and What it Means for High Performing Teams

Sparring ButtonTraditional mentoring takes a top-down approach—senior people give advice and junior staff are supposed to zip their lips and take notes. But old models don’t work in our multi-generational, global workforce where the traditional corporate hierarchy must be transcended in order to respond to rapid change.

Innovation Sparring Zones are spaces of power-free collaboration that create an optimally innovative, responsive, and flexible environment for ideas to germinate and grow by leveraging the groups’ collective experience, differing viewpoints and strengths. The result? Friction-free communication, an open flow of ideas and profitable collaboration. This provides new tools for a new era of collaboration and conflict.In our webinar, I’m going to go into detail on how you can use Sparring to:

  • Learn to harness productive conflict and spar with your team in a way that brings results, more ideas, and greater execution

  • Learn what questions to ask, which suggestions to make and how to adapt their styles to the styles of those on their team

  • How to measure the ROI of innovation sparring zones to make it a productive result for your bottom line to drive results

When is the Webinar?

Presenter: Me! Erica Dhawan

Format: The Advent of Sparring and What It Means for High Performing Team

Day: Wed, November 20 2013

Time: 2 PM EST – 11 AM PST (US and Canada)

To reserve your spot in the webinar (spaces are limited), click HERE.

Join the Facebook Event here and Get the FREE Sparring Script here.

Webinar – 4 Ways to Unleash Connectional Intelligence to Achieve Business Breakthroughs

Connectional IntelligenceWe're not tapping into the cognitive surplus of our interconnected age. Everyone has the capacity to link up with people, power, ideas, information and resources, and on an operatic scale. Humans have always been connected, but until now we've never had the capability or the tools to connect to one another on this scale, and no one has cracked the code as to how we can take all our passions, interests, initiatives, innovations and outrages, and go big with them. That's where Connectional Intelligence comes in. In partnership with Saj-Nicole Joni, I have developed a proprietary process, Connectional Intelligence, that helps leaders and organizations consistently deliver transformative results by discovering and leveraging the value of relationships and networks.

In our webinar, I’m going to go into detail on how you can use Connectional Intelligence to:

I’ll tell you:

  • Why organizations that value growth, innovation and excellence must include connectional intelligence as part of the role of every leader
  • How to use tools to harness Connectional Intelligence without causing resistance and how to leverage the connective capacity of every employee
  • How to strengthen teams by transforming disconnects into trust points
  • How to innovate and implement best practices that maximize each person's contributions

Get ready, I'm going to drop some serious knowledge.

When is the Webinar?

Presenter: Me! Erica Dhawan

Format: A complete breakdown of the 4 Ways to Unleash Connectional Intelligence

Day: Wed, October 30 2013

Time: 2 PM EST – 11 AM PST (US and Canada)

To reserve your spot in the webinar (spaces are limited), click HERE.

Join the Facebook Event here and Get the Connectional Intelligence White Paper here.

The Power of Serendipity

I've spent the last three weeks on the West Coast, first at Downtown Project, then HATCHfest, then Summit Series weekend and wanted to give a real update on me (given my delayed blogging this month).

First, I spent a week at Tony Hsieh's new Downtown Project initiative. I had come out here in July for Catalyst Week (here's my video from the event) and decided to come back to work on exploring the Connectional intelligence of this community –boy I did. 

First of all, if you don't know yet, the Downtown Project is trying to change downtown Las Vegas to the most community focused city in the world. The most interesting thing I learned is that every time a city grows, it becomes more productive and effective. Every time a company grows, it becomes less productive. As a result, Zappos is learning how to be more like a city as it scales while growing a city next to it with the Downtown Project. It is an amazing 350M dollar social experiment and one that time will tell will be discovered more.

My week included the following:

–Attended Zappos's all hands quarterly meeting, which included circus performers, Deal or No Deal and Price is Right games, TED talker Yo Yo performer, National Geographic's Jason Silva, and open employees Q&A with executives. I hadn't seen this level of "company fun" ever before.

–Zappos is unleashing a powerful new social technology called Holacracy, which is a governance structure with no employees (only partners), no managers (just distributed authority, and no owners controlling it (just investors along for the ride). No organization at this growth stage has every tried it. Medium is one example of a group that uses Holacracy. Like many things Holocracy models the pioneering nature of Zappos and an aspiration to build a bottom up decision governance structure and open corporate culture as it scales.

–I was most touched by the open, quirky culture of Zappos–the idea that everyone is weird and to let your own uniqueness shine. The People team were incredibly passionate and forward thinking about how to use the concept of "collisions" to grow a diverse, connected comapny.

My next journey was at HATCH, an amazing collaborative community of 100 of the world's creative thinkers in Bozeman, Montana. I had never been to Montana, so this was really fun and new.   I found myself next to everyone from Tim Gruber, the inventor of Siri to now a dear friend Mike North, founder of Reallocate and Prototype This on the Discovery Channel. Most importantly, everyone was thinking about how to push the edge in the most creative ways possible. An experiment we went through was asking: what keeps you up at night? What challenge are you trying to overcome? Then we worked in carefully matchmaked diverse group to work towards actually solving the challenge. Then we connected people with 2 mentors with similar types of challenges to help each other solve it. It was one of the best raw and real events I've ever been to.

Last but not least was Summit Series weekend a week later. Summit Series has been a well-known tribe and known to be a fascinating view of "Connectional intelligence", having just bought an entire mountain, a 40MM investment and getting together in a powerful way to create their own new version of an Aspen Institute. It truly felt like an interesting meeting of the minds and time will tell how this community grows.

Here's what I'm learning from my trip about Connectional Intelligence: Our greatest sources of help are where we least expect it. I learn the most not from the "big speaker" but from the new person sitting next to me, the person that is brainstorming a new way of solving a problem or might have had an interesting resource on questions to ask ourselves. They helped me think the most critically about my book on Connectional Intelligence and why we need diverse crowds to shift the edge. 

So, now to you, how are you going to surround yourself in new "crowds" to help push your thinking and prepare for serendipity to create your next breakthrough? How do you open up your own curiosity to learn? You never know where it could come from, so you just need to dive in!

Top 5 articles you must read on workplace innovation

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 1. Keith Harrell's article, Attitude in the Workplace, in Success talks about some of the challenges people face today in the workplace. When was the last time your attitude, good or bad, made a difference?

  2. What is the perfect place to work? Here is an article showing some characteristics of a truly great workplace. 

  3. While some workplace stress is normal, excessive stress can interfere with your productivity and impact your physical and emotional health. Here are tips to reduce and manage job and workplace stress. 

4. This is one of the diciest challenges of office politics, one that invades the cubicle farm and executive suite alike: How to deal with workplace whiners.

5. "Don't just Hear- Listen." One of the tips for effective workplace communicationTo improve communication within your team and throughout your entire company, you need to implement a few easy but important changes to your corporate philosophy and practice. 


Top 5 articles you must read on Innovation

writing pen  1. Bryan Mahoney's article, Innovation Strategy goes on to identify top five strategies to address innovation, one of which entails the creation of culture of innovation by promoting and rewarding entrepreneurship and risk-taking.

  2. This article in Innovation Excellence by Paul Hobcraft expresses that organizations should not rely on a single innovation function, it must integrate with the entire organization.

  3. How does a company like Google continue to grow exponentially while still staying innovative? Susam Wojcicki, Google's Senior Vice President of Advertising, discusses some of the processes and principles in place to make sure that the company doesn't get bogged down in the past as it keeps moving forward. 8 Pillars of Innovation

4. Today, we’re on the brink of a new digital paradigm, where the capabilities of our technology are beginning to outstrip our own.  Computers are deciding which products to stock on shelves, doing legal research and even winning game shows. They will soon be driving our cars and making medical diagnoses.  Here are five trends that are driving it all

5. 7 Tips to Speed Time to Innovation: This article delves into the goals every organization should work toward to boost product development performance, looks at how these goals further a product organizations ability to bring innovative products to market, and outlines the ways that a Product Portfolio Management (PPM) Solution helps comapnies reach these goals.